A National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) team has reached Meghalaya’s East Jaintia Hills as it faces a race against time to rescue the 15 workers that got trapped in a mine after water from nearby Lytein river flowed into it. The workers have been missing since a fortnight and were reportedly engaged in ‘rat-hole’ mining in a coal mine.
Rescue efforts have been delayed as the remote area did not possess adequate personnel to deal with the issue, a senior home department official said.
Despite the National Green Tribunal (NGT) banning the coal mining in Meghalaya, citing “safety of miners”, illegal mining practices continue till day putting lives at risk.
In rat-hole mining, narrow tunnels of three to four feet high are dug by the workers, who enter and extract the coal. These holes are termed as “rat-holes” since they can only fit a person at a time.
According to Sylvester Nongtynger, the East Jaintia Hills superintendent of police, they received information of accident from the Rajabala MLA Azad Aman.
"It took the police hours to locate the mine as the villagers feigned ignorance about the accident. They are afraid that mine owners might cause them harm. Some who consider mining to be their only means of livelihood fear police action may add to their woes," he said.